Simon & Schuster Canada has won approval from the Canadian government to expand its operations in the country to include a publishing program.
“This will give Canadian authors more opportunities to be published in Canada, discovered by Canadian readers and made known abroad through Simon & Schuster’s global publishing platform,” Kevin Hanson, president of Simon & Schuster Canada said in the announcement late yesterday. “We look forward to making our own contribution to Canada’s vibrant literary scene.”
S&S has been the only multinational publisher in Canada prohibited from publishing Canadian books by foreign ownership regulations created to protect indigenous cultural industries. Random House of Canada, Penguin Group Canada and HarperCollins Canada were all allowed to have Canadian publishing programs because they were in the country before the investment regulations were introduced. S&S expanded into Canada in 2002 when it acquired the Canadian distributor Distican, but it agreed to limit its operations in Canada to sales, marketing and distribution of its own products and distributed lines.
The current Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper began a review of those foreign investment regulations a few years ago but has not yet made changes to them. However, it has also become increasingly clear that the government is not enforcing the rules as it once did. The shift was most apparent when it approved Amazon’s application to establish a physical distribution center in Canada in 2010, Random House of Canada’s full acquisition of the iconic literary house McClelland & Stewart in 2012 and most recently imposed no conditions on the merger of Penguin and Random House in Canada.
In this case, Canadian publishing trade magazine Quill & Quire has reported that S&S has agreed to several undertakings to pass the “net benefit” to Canada test, including promising to “participate in Canadian book industry initiatives, expand its internship program with Simon-Fraser University and Humber College, as well as develop a course for future book industry leaders with Simon-Fraser University.”
S&S Canada, which has a Canadian president and staff, has long hoped to publish Canadian books locally. Until now, the company’s only option was to direct Canadian authors to its New York offices, which it has done with some notable authors such as Andrew Pyper, Brad Smith, Kevin Sylvester. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is even publishing the book he wrote on hockey history with S&S in the U.S. Though he is publishing it as a private citizen and his agent Michael Levine told The Globe and Mail that the decision to publish with S&S was entirely his own and was based on S&S offering the best deal and being prepared to publish in both the U.S. and Canada, Harper’s reputation for tight control of his government and its messages does raise the question of whether or not the choice of publisher could have been an indirect political statement.
So far the news of a new multinational publisher seems to be welcome on the Canadian scene, and many observers have noted that S&S's presence will be a balancing factor if Random House and Penguin merge. Agent Shaun Bradley of the Transatlantic Agency told PW: "We will all benefit from a healthy and robust industry. If keeping it healthy includes the addition of new bookstores and publishers into the mix, then I'm happy to welcome them. Given the amount of contraction we've seen over the last few years, it's refreshing to see such a well-established company officially opening its doors in Canada."